I moved to a suburb I’m not sure about for a home that I love. Here’s how it’s going.
We spoke to one of our Melbourne friends about their recent move from a suburb they totally love, to somewhere new that they could afford to buy in. This is a story of priorities, timing, compromise and the importance of researching the neighbourhood before you move.
We decided it was time to swap our urban apartment for a family-friendly home because we had a baby on the way and the clock was ticking. This was at the height of the 2021 post-lockdown property demand in Melbourne so finding the perfect place proved to be a challenge. But, we agreed we had to be settled in our new home by the time our newest family member arrived. Nothing like a deadline to inspire action!
We went to endless open homes and auctions in the neighbourhood we had called home for years and years – Fitzroy North. We loved it there. The atmosphere, the surroundings, the buildings, the locals, the whole vibe. Having lived in one of Melbourne’s most vibrant suburbs for so long, we were yet to realise being a ‘Fitzroy North local’ had become part of our identities. Our target areas were Fitzroy, Collingwood, Northcote and Richmond at a stretch. Unfortunately, we soon realised that our dream of a Victorian 3 bed, 2 bath family home in our beloved suburb was more of a wild fantasy.
So, we opened up the search field and soon found ourselves admiring the wide, leafy streets of Ascot Vale. Its charming period homes and English feel had us interested, but the house we found had us at ‘hello’. We found The One – Victorian detailing, high ceilings… all of the beautiful things on my wish list, as well as the practicalities. Family nearby? Tick. Close enough to the CBD for work? Tick. Sale price range 20% cheaper? Big tick. And so, we bought it. Ascot Vale, here we come.
Fast forward to a life with a newborn and a new neighbourhood.
I still love my house, which is as gorgeous as ever, but I really miss my life in Fitzroy North. What went wrong and what would my advice be?
An identity upheaval.
As mentioned before, I was a long-standing Fitzroy local – and that had become a bigger part of my identity than I initially realised. Without that community, atmosphere and locale around me, I started to feel left out and like I was ‘missing something’. Doing the final stints of COVID lockdowns without that community around me was particularly hard. I knew if I was back in our old place, we would be having drinks over the fence with neighbours and interacting with the local business owners, really pulling together as a vibrant, urban community. Here, however, neighbours are a little more private and a little less ‘out and about’. I guess you could say, there isn’t a ‘scene’.
Key learning: have a really good think about how important your community is to you and if the places and people around you significantly contribute to your lifestyle. It’s totally fine for this to be a big deal to you. It’s important not to underestimate just how much it matters.
Spend more time researching and visiting the new area before committing.
Aside from a few days at the Ascot Vale Races here and there, I didn’t know the area. As well as the community aspect, after moving in I found out smaller day to day details that I don’t love. I now have to drive around to do errands rather than being able to walk due to where everything is, and as a new mum, that makes a big difference. When you live in a walking-friendly suburb, you are more in touch with the community – you have multiple opportunities a day to notice details, meet people and just get to know the place better. Driving is insular – we don’t meet people driving from a to b. I also wish I dug deeper when it comes to finding out what it would be like to live on our street – it might be beautiful and leafy but it also has a major bus route going right through it.
Key learnings: If I had my time back I would arm myself with more ‘mundane’ details about the area. Of course, this was all before I heard about Homely – I’m sure the suburb and street reviews would have been a gold mine of tips and truths from locals had I looked there first. I’d recommend asking questions in the Q&A section and doing a solid read of street and suburb reviews.
Compromise is necessary. Nothing is forever. Timing is everything.
As much as I have my qualms about our new neighbourhood I would still make the same decision with a chance to do it over, albeit with more research. Why? Because no matter what I chose, I had to strike a compromise. We had to either splurge beyond our financial means on a property we didn’t love, or move somewhere new, into a perfect house. This is a very familiar narrative to so many first home buyers and young families. Something just has to give.
Key learning: Advice I would offer to others weighing up these options is to do your research before you make your decision but once you make your decision, you can’t dwell on it. Remember that nothing is forever and timing is everything. This won’t be our ‘forever home’ and that’s ok. We plan to stay here for another three or so years and in that time, work towards our actual dream home back in our dream suburb. Given the timing, we made a good decision for our family and our finances and despite my personal grievances with where we are, we made a good purchase.